Osteomalacia – Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

osteomalacia treatment

Osteomalacia treatment: knowing the cause is important – Dr. Praharsha Mulpur

1. Osteomalacia introduction

Osteomalacia is a condition that affects the bones, causing them to become soft, weak, and prone to fractures. It primarily occurs in adults and is different from rickets, which is the equivalent condition in children. In osteomalacia, the bones do not mineralize properly, leading to a loss of bone density and strength.

2. Causes of Osteomalacia

2.1 Vitamin D deficiency

Vitamin D plays a crucial role in maintaining adequate levels of calcium and phosphate in the body. A deficiency of vitamin D can occur due to limited sunlight exposure, a lack of dietary intake, or problems with its absorption or metabolism.

2.2 Malabsorption disorders

Certain gastrointestinal disorders, such as celiac disease, inflammatory bowel disease, and gastric bypass surgery, can interfere with the absorption of vitamin D and other nutrients necessary for bone health.

2.3 Renal tubular acidosis

Renal tubular acidosis is a kidney disorder that can affect the body’s ability to maintain the appropriate balance of acids and bases. This condition can lead to impaired vitamin D metabolism and subsequent osteomalacia.

3. Symptoms and Signs of Osteomalacia

The symptoms of osteomalacia can vary from mild to severe and may develop gradually over time. Common signs and symptoms include:

3.1 Bone pain

Individuals with osteomalacia often experience deep, aching bone pain. The pain is typically worse at night and interferes with daily activities.

3.2 Muscle weakness

Muscle weakness is another common symptom of osteomalacia. It can affect various muscle groups, leading to difficulty in performing tasks that require strength and coordination.

3.3 Skeletal deformities

In severe cases of osteomalacia, skeletal deformities may develop. These deformities can affect the legs, spine, and other bones, causing abnormalities in posture and gait.

4. Diagnosis of Osteomalacia

4.1 Blood tests

Blood tests can be conducted to measure the levels of certain substances related to bone health, such as vitamin D, calcium, phosphate, and alkaline phosphatase. Low levels of vitamin D and abnormalities in other parameters can indicate osteomalacia.

4.2 Bone density scans

Bone density scans, such as dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA), can help assess the density and strength of bones. These scans can reveal reduced bone mineral density, indicating osteomalacia.

4.3 X-rays

X-rays may be performed to identify any skeletal deformities or fractures associated with osteomalacia. However, X-rays alone may not provide a definitive diagnosis and may require additional tests.

5. Osteomalacia Treatment Options

5.1 Vitamin D and calcium supplements

Supplementation with vitamin D and calcium is a common treatment approach for osteomalacia. This helps correct deficiencies and supports bone mineralization. The dosage and duration of supplementation depend on the severity of the condition and individual needs.

5.2 Sun Exposure

Sunlight is a natural source of vitamin D. Adequate exposure to sunlight, particularly during the early morning or late afternoon when the sun is less intense, can help the body produce vitamin D.

5.3 Dietary changes

A balanced diet rich in vitamin D and other essential nutrients is important for bone health. Foods such as fatty fish, fortified dairy products, egg yolks, and mushrooms can contribute to vitamin D intake.

6. Complications of Osteomalacia

6.1 Fractures

Weakened bones in osteomalacia are more susceptible to fractures, even with minimal trauma. Fractures can occur in various bones, including the hips, wrists, and spine.

6.2 Mobility issues

Muscle weakness and skeletal deformities associated with osteomalacia can affect mobility and lead to difficulties in walking, climbing stairs, and performing daily activities.

6.3 Chronic pain

Chronic pain is a common complication of osteomalacia. Persistent bone and muscle pain can significantly impact the quality of life and require proper management.

7. Prevention of Osteomalacia

7.1 Adequate sunlight exposure

Regular exposure to sunlight, especially during the times when the sun is less intense, helps the body produce vitamin D. Spending time outdoors and engaging in outdoor activities can support optimal vitamin D levels.

7.2 Balanced diet

A well-balanced diet that includes sources of vitamin D, calcium, and other essential nutrients is important for maintaining bone health. Incorporating foods such as fatty fish, dairy products, fortified cereals, and leafy greens can contribute to adequate nutrient intake.

7.3 Regular exercise

Regular exercise, particularly weight-bearing exercises like walking, jogging, and strength training, can help maintain bone density and strength. It is important to consult with healthcare professionals or trainers to determine appropriate exercise routines.

8. Living with Osteomalacia

8.1 Pain management techniques

Managing pain associated with osteomalacia often requires a multifaceted approach. This may include medications, physical therapy, heat or cold therapy, and relaxation techniques.

8.2 Physical therapy

Physical therapy can help improve muscle strength, flexibility, and overall physical function. A physical therapist can design an exercise program tailored to the individual’s needs and capabilities.

8.3 Support groups

Joining support groups or connecting with others who have osteomalacia can provide emotional support, share experiences, and offer coping strategies. Online forums and local community organizations can be valuable resources.

9. Osteomalacia in Children and Adults

9.1 Rickets in children

Rickets is a similar condition to osteomalacia but occurs in children. It is characterized by soft and weak bones due to vitamin D deficiency or impaired metabolism. The symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment of rickets are similar to those of osteomalacia.

9.2 Osteomalacia in Adults

Osteomalacia primarily affects adults, especially those with underlying conditions or risk factors. The treatment and management strategies for osteomalacia in adults are similar to those mentioned earlier in the article.


Osteomalacia is a condition characterized by the softening and weakening of bones in adults. It is primarily caused by a deficiency of vitamin D or problems with its metabolism. Early diagnosis and appropriate treatment are essential to manage the symptoms, prevent complications, and improve the quality of life for individuals with osteomalacia. For the best osteomalacia treatment, meet Dr. Praharsha Mulpur.